August 2, 2012

Immersed and in love

It is almost 7am.  Life is beginning to stir here at 1807 Hagert Street in Philadelphia.  I was up early and I had to take Mr. Sheehan '79 to the airport at 5:30am.  A few students are up, one is doing laundry, two others are making pancakes for us, some more are beginning to shower.

I can look out our windows with bars and if I look down the street I can see the homeless men who slept outside last night.  I can hear the elevated train rumble by across the street.  If I look next door I can see the house of three women who have given up everything they had to live here and serve the poor for an annual salary of $0.  If I look across the street I can see the house of the Franciscan Friars, the men who run Saint Francis Inn which is right next door to us.

Trinity High School students have been coming to Saint Francis Inn in Philadelphia for seven years.  Each Christmas, a group of alumni who did this trip as students come down along with two parents.  I arrived yesterday morning and right away noticed how fully immersed our students were in their work. They know the people and the place as if they've been here for years.  There are three main tasks:

1. Prepare for lunch and breakfast (and later serve the meals to the guests)
2. Go on pick-ups for donations of food
3. Work at the thrift store

Shortly after I arrived, Josh Martin '13 and Erica Fowler '13 arrived with one of the volunteers with a van full of food.  I helped unload the van and bring the items to the basement pantries.  My blue shirt was soaked through within minutes!  After this, Richie McCauley '13, Kara Gadecki '13, Allie Bowe '13, Mr. Sheehan, Mrs. Bourque P'14, and I helped prep for dinner.  Kasie Bourque '14 and Clare Dalton '13 were at the thrift shop and Erica and Josh went back out on runs.

We were all together again at 4pm to help serve dinner.  Dinner is served restaurant style and the guests are seated and brought their meals and desserts.  We give them plastic bags if they need them (to store their personal effects) and toiletries are given to those who ask.  During the meal, you either serve, bus, or set the table.  I served last night and had two tables.  Even though they told me it was slow (about 250 people total) we were all hustling, it keeps you busy.  After dinner, we all gathered upstairs with the friars and other workers for Evening Prayer.

Today, we do it all over again, starting with Mass at 8:30am.  Food the soul.

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